Hillary Clinton's announcement of a presidential campaign, scheduled for April 12, will begin the presidential election cycle in earnest. Clinton is largely seen as the overwhelming front-runner for her party's nomination, and a slight-to-moderate favorite in the general election.
The Republican field to oppose Clinton is fractured between far right, anti-establishment candidates with support from the grassroots Tea Party movement, and more moderate candidates who are considered by Republican insiders to be more viable contenders in a head-to-head matchup with Clinton.
There has been much buzz surrounding the all-but-announced candidacies of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, both well-known establishment favorites in the race. Both Bush and Walker would likely be competitive with Clinton if they secure their party's nomination. That said, there is another establishment candidate who I believe would actually start off with an edge against the political powerhouse that is Hillary Rodham Clinton. I'm talking about Senator Marco Rubio.
Rubio was elected in 2010 as part of that year's tea party wave. Since then, he's delivered the official republican response to President Obama's state of the union address, played a key role in passing bi-partisan immigration reform through the Senate and proven himself a powerful rising star in the Republican Party. His announcement Monday that he is running for President should scare Democrats, and here's why.
First off, Rubio is a confident and effective public speaker. He's likable without sounding weak, and he's powerful without being arrogant. He responded to an unfortunate gaffe during his response to the state of the union in which he awkwardly reached for a water bottle in the middle of his speech, with humor and political savvy. This leads to my next point. On likability, Rubio is a great foil to Clinton.
Clinton is a very seasoned political insider at 67 years old who has played crucial roles in two Presidential administrations, and has run in a previous campaign for the office. The 43-year-old Rubio, on the other hand, is a fresh face, who was elected over an establishment Republican (the now Democrat Charlie Crist) just five years ago. He's carefully walked the line between garnering establishment support and throwing red meat to Tea Party supporters. Indeed, his biggest weakness may be that working on bipartisan immigration reform hurt him with his base in the Republican primary.
However, that weakness will be a huge boost to his chances in a general election.
Immigration reform is a contentious issue, in part because of the rising Latino population in the U.S. Democrats are relying on solid support from Latinos who make up large portions of the voter rolls in key swing states like Colorado, Nevada and the 29 electoral vote, king-of-all-swing-states, Florida. On that note, Marco Rubio is Latino himself and from Florida.
It'd be naïve for democrats to think that these demographic and geographic advantages won't boost the young, handsome and telegenic Senator into a pretty good position against their all-but-anointed nominee. Add this cross party appeal to the possibility that Rubio uses his unique background to unite establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives in November 2016 and you've got a possible disaster for Democrats, who were pummeled in last year's mid-term elections.
Around a dozen Republicans will announce presidential bids for 2016. Only about five of them will have any chance at winning. I'm firm in my belief that the best shot for Republicans is to nominate a young charismatic senator with cross party appeal to go up against a well-known national figure. Democrats did just that in 1960 with a guy named John F. Kennedy. In case you didn't hear, he won.